Undiscovered is the first career survey of Australian artist, Michael Cook.
Of the Bidjara people of south-west Queensland, Michael Cook was born in Brisbane and adopted into a non-Aboriginal family in Hervey Bay where he spent his youth. Cook has lived and worked on the Sunshine Coast for over 30 years. He left a successful career as a commercial photographer to become an artist in 2009, a move driven by a desire to connect with his Aboriginal heritage and to interrogate the legacy of colonisation in Australia.
From his reflections on the political leadership of Australia and his revisioning of colonial history, to his rethinking of assimilation and the great Australian dream, Cook has consistently made images that ask the viewer to reconsider Australia’s conflicted history and its impact on the political, social and personal of our present day. His works appear like visions from a dream. They are surreal and seductive, but below their beautiful surface, bitter and uncomfortable truths about the history of Australia are revealed.
Michael Cook: Undiscovered surveys the first decade of the artists practice and includes work selected from the series’ Through My Eyes 2010, Broken Dreams 2010, Undiscovered 2010, Stickman 2011, The Mission 2011, Civilised 2012, Majority Rule 2014, Object 2015, Mother 2016, Invasion 2017, and Livin’ The Dream 2020. The exhibition coincides with the relaunch of USC Art Gallery after a major redevelopment and the 250th Anniversary of Captain James Cook’s first voyage to Australia and the Pacific in 1770.
The artist cites this passage taken from James Cook’s journal as a provocation he returns to in his work:
These people may truly be said to be in the pure state of nature and may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth; but in reality they are far happier than … we Europeans.
Through his work, Cook creates alternative visions of Australia. In Cook’s world, Australia is a place where Aboriginal people are the majority, not the minority, and James Cook’s fleeting observation is valued. The artist asks us to join him in interrogating our shared history and prompts us to consider what our past might have looked like and what our future could look like if the Aboriginal Peoples of this country were sovereign.
EXPLORE THE ARTWORKS
Follow the links for more information about each of Cook's photographic series.